Janet is a 35-year old team manager of thirteen staff who fell down the stairs at work and sustained a brain injury known as Post-concussion Syndrome. She had been signed off work and she wasn’t eligible for statutory occupational therapy support because her brain injury didn’t have any physical effects and an MRI scan didn’t show any damage. However, Janet was experiencing life changing effects which were impacting on her day to day living and preventing her from returning to work:
- Confusion of night and day to the point of becoming nocturnal
- Extreme fatigue
- Unable to tolerate light and noise
- Slurred speech
- Poor concentration
Janet was understandably anxious and irritable. These effects were impacting on her daily life; for example, she wasn’t able to cook a meal for herself that took anything longer than a few minutes. Because of her sensitivity to light and noise, she wasn’t able to use public transport and didn’t feel safe to drive, and wasn’t able to take part in her usually active social life. Because she wasn’t working, wasn’t able to socialise and was feeling stressed and anxious, Janet was at risk of not returning to work and struggling with mental health problems.
Re-Building a Healthy Life
An Occupational Therapist worked with Janet to:
- Get back to a daily routine – by working out a baseline level of activity that Janet could tolerate, and by maximising her energy levels by chunking related activities together then gradually building activity levels up over time.
- Get back to regular sleeping patterns – with clear advice on fatigue management
- Reduce stress and anxiety
- Maintain good relationships with her employer – by supporting Janet to provide information to her employer and plan for key meetings
- Prepare for return to work – by reviewing her work activities and possible role adaptations; finding ways for Janet to practice her work activities in a more work-like and noisy environment.
- Get back to work – by putting together a plan for a phased return to work and providing ongoing support around this process.
- Feel supported throughout the process – by negotiating an extension to her phased return to work.
After a 14-week phased return to work supported by an Occupational Therapist, Janet returned to work without having to rely on benefits at any point during her recovery, completing her return to work within the timescale of her paid sick leave. She says:
“I think that in reality I am 95% better and I am now confident in the progress I have made. I still get more headaches than before the accident and feel tired more quickly, but I know what to do with that and can manage the fatigue and headaches that arise. I found the support in my return to work invaluable and I’m so grateful I could access this.”